At the beginning of May 2000 a salvage excavation was conducted in the northern part of Mi‘ilya village (Permit No. A-3232*; map ref. NIG 22479–80/77009–10; OIG 17479–80/27009–10), in the wake of damage to a burial cave caused by the installation of a water pipe. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and financed by the Meqorot Water Company, was directed by H. Abu-‘Uqsa, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), M. Yitach and H. Smithline (photography), L. Porat (pottery restoration) and H. Tahan (drawing).
The damaged cave (Cave A; Fig. 1) was part of a burial complex that included two other caves (B and C; Fig. 1), exposed for many years and visible on the surface. The caves are hewn in the chalk bedrock, which is covered with a layer of nari.
Cave A consisted of a square entrance shaft (1.1 × 1.1 m) located on its northeastern side. The northwestern side of the shaft had an entrance (width 0.6 m), leading to another cave that was not excavated. A step descended from the shaft to the cave entrance (0.60 × 0.62 m) and a second step (height 0.28 m) led inside the burial chamber (width 3 m, height 0.9 m). A shallow rock-cut pit (c. 0.3–0.4 m) was in the middle of the chamber. The entire length of the cave’s southern side was damaged. The cave was filled almost to its top with dark brown soil that contained a few pottery fragments (Fig. 2) and a bead from the Intermediate Bronze Age.
Cave B was located c. 10 m northwest of Cave A. A rectangular entrance shaft (c. 0.9 × 2.0 m) was hewn in its southern wall, with a single step leading to the burial chamber (1.9 × 2.0 m, height 0.9 m), which had a hewn pit (0.6 × 1.1 m, depth 0.4 m) in the center. A small recess, whose purpose is unclear, was at the top of the western wall of the entrance shaft. The cave was devoid of finds.
The single low chamber in this cave was similar to that of Cave A and to other burial caves of the Intermediate and Middle Bronze Ages discovered in the region, such as the caves in Nahal Yehi‘am (ESI 20:7*; HA–ESI 110:6*). Concurrently, the rectangular shaft in Cave B is different from the square and circular shafts that were customary in the Intermediate and Middle Bronze Ages; yet, it resembles the shafts from the Hellenistic period onward that were found in the region. It therefore seems that the shaft was enlarged when the cave was in secondary use during a later period.
Cave C was located c. 10 m east of Cave A. At the base of a quarry, in which the right-angled lines of ashlar stones that were extracted from the nari layer were visible, was an opening created by the collapse of the cave’s ceiling. The cave was not excavated, hence it was impossible to ascertain whether it was used for burial.